No words

No words. Nothin can compare with the one name: Jesus.

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No words

Reading a psychology article today, I hear the author say that Christians are just trying to validate themselves by pushing to make others like themselves. Hmmm… if all we were sharing what was simply a good idea or another philosophy, I would agree.

BUT … when I hear the words of “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” and think of the line, “the Father turned his face away …” my heart both shrinks and swells. What must it have meant, have felt, for Yahweh Adonai, El Shaddai, ABBA Father, to turn his face away from the sins marring the body of his Son? What did it mean to Jesus Yeshua and what excruciating anguish did he feel to be severed even momentarily from oneness, relationship and the love of his ABBA Adonai?

Immediately my heart says, “God, I wasn’t worth it! Not one of us, not all of us together were worth one drop of that blood or one millisecond of that pain to You and to Yeshua.” And immediately I know that it was not about my worth, our worth, but about God’s great love. “Yin and Yang,” both at the same time I wasn’t worth it YET God says I am! The One who created the Universes says I mean that much to Him.

So much for our egos, both damaged and inflated. One voice, One Love, says each one of us was and is worth it.  Oh Lamb of God, in humility and in awe-struck wondrous love I come.

Why on earth would I not want everyone on Earth to know this love? It has NOTHING to do with my ego or my validation, yet it is about my worth, your worth. It is about His love, period.  Jesus plus nothing. Family-praising-God1  Your “…BUT…” to move:  Oh, Father God, i see myself as so unworthy of your love because I __________________________________ and YET, BUT you proclaim how precious I am to you through Jesus. Help me to believe that truly you __________________________________ when you think of me and you want me to know how much ______________________________________________. Help me to accept YOUR words and love over me in my life, and help me to look at Jesus’ righteousness as a gift you give to me. I think I need to share this with ______________________ so give me wisdom, courage, the right words and an opportunity to ___________________________. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Grace for Greatness

Praise-God-christianity-30399917-450-227I could have pretended when the lizard ran across the trail in front of me. I was walking with a man, and I could have clutched his shoulder, turned my head into his chest and squealed, “Oh, “_______” (he shall remain nameless), a LIZARD! I’m so scared! Throw a rock at it! make it go away!” And after he did, I’d look up into his eyes, bat mine, and in a higher register than I use to speak with my female friends, I’d swooningly say, “Oh “_________,” you’re so brave and strong!” And if he took the bait … I’d be calling that man to a level lower than his true courage, integrity, and valor. Pardon me saying this, but PUKE! In spiritual terms, that translates to “abomination.”

I’ve seen it, girlfriends. I’ve listened as you did it, and even if you are truly afraid of lizards, do you think falsely building up a man’s esteem calls him to greatness? It may salve his insecurity, but Jesus wants more for him and from him than a false hero status. God wants him to live in  greatness. Guys, give that woman a second and third look and then tell her that her husband doesn’t appreciate al she is? God wants her to live in greatness.

Gentlemen, I’m addressing this to you, and ladies, to you as well.  Today is Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Passover and the Resurrection, when God’s Spirit fell on Jesus’ disciples and followers in the Upper room. They were, we can imagine, staying there in Jerusalem not just in response to Jesus’ instructions, but also in some sense of confusion and fear, not knowing what would come next or where they would go, or how they could go on about life as usual after having walked with the Son of God, so real and present in that room with him after his resurrection, so many days and weeks absent now.

The lizard ran across the trail in front of me, and instead of shrieking – gosh it was just a small striped lizard, terrified of my big feet clumping down the trail close on its tail – I gave a very fake shriek, feigned terror (after having told him I like lizards) and then in all seriousness said, “________,” if you want to show me how courageous you really are, if you want to make this Christian girl swoon, load a “mortar round” of prayer and lob it at the Devil for me! THAT is courage! THAT is a true hero! God’s Grace to propel into greatness!

And I wasn’t  kidding.  This guy has fasted for me and prayed for me, and if I truly care about him as a friend and brother in Christ, my job is to call forth the greatness in him, the greatest greatness he can live. I can’t encourage him in sin, no matter how tempting it might be to lead him into a false sense of superhuman stature just to get his affection. Math teacher in me, I’d be degrading him to the “Lowest Common (cultural) Denominator”. Oh, gag, how insulting I would be if I even thought of encouraging a brother to sin, and how denigrating I would be if I didn’t believe in the greatness Jesus has instilled in him through the Holy Spirit to call him to courageous action, to the “Greatest UN-common Denominator” of the best, truest, and most courageous life God has for him, conforming to the likeness of Jesus as a Blood-bought child of God. “My agenda” for him means nothing’; God’s agenda for him means everything. GUCD!

I acknowledge here that I did do something for my former husband that allowed him to think the sin he was in, by his own words, “Wasn’t so bad, and if that’s the worst of (my) sins, well, God made me this way.”  Oh, vile lie of the Devil!  Did I think I was being submissive to enable him to sin without consequences or speaking to him that HE was worth more than that?   Was my compliance being an obedient wife, or was it allowing him to stay in a level far below the true courage, integrity,  honork, dignity, purity and valor God intended that man to live in and live out? I don’t take responsibility for his sin, but I am responsible for how I responded to it. Oh, if I’d had the courage to trust God enough to speak up out of loving truth and called him to righteousness in his choices.  God would’ve  taken care of me no matter what his response was, as long as my motives were for his best, for his true grace-given greatness.

As I relate to others now years later, I recognize that I cannot call forth less than the greatest from my bothers and sisters.  When I consider the price God paid for her, for him, when I think of the treasure that person is to God’s heart, how can I use, manipulate, or hold her or him to less than the most meaningful, vital, alive, on-fire life from all God’s Spirit has poured into them, to live in and live out of them?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”  1 John 3:1-10 NIV

I love the old hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.” Knowing the price God paid in watching His beloved suffer whipping and then the indignity and agony of the cross, how can we think God means for grace to do anything less than call us to greatness, true greatness? Ought we to do less, ought we to lower our expectations of each other and give flattery instead of encouragement to greatness? Why would I want to allow someone I love to live in anything less than the grace and greatness God gifted her or him with when she or he made Jesus Lord? If Jesus is his Lord, her Lord, then he is a son of the King of Kings, and she is a daughter of the Lord of All, grace gifted through Jesus to rise in strength, courage, compassion, valor, dignity, kindness, purity and truth to live a life and leave a legacy of greatness .

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

My stand cost me dearly, because I couldn’t let a loved one live out less than the greatness God his Father  called him to. Others – “friends” and colleagues spoke into his life to encourage him to conform to the standards of the world and live far below the integrity God wanted him to live in and live out.  Was that true love?

Today I want, and I pray you may consider, to call the people you love in your life to the truest greatness they can live in and live out. a measure of our love is the measure of grace-gifted greatness we call forth in and from eachother.Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we  should be called the sons and daughters of God.

Two songs to share with you: the first is the why and how, and the second is what we can become as we encourage each other to greatness.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

So then, what does this measure ask of us? All I want to do is be a soul on fire for the love and purity of God and call it forth in the hearts of others! So, my sisters, my friends, my brothers, lob a grenade of prayer at the enemy in the lives of those you love today! Selah! Amen!

My “…BUt…” to move: God, I’ve settled for less than courage in my own life. I’ve even tantalized others to live in so much less than the greatness of Your grace in them to flatter them and make them like me or to “get” something from them, BUT today I purpose to,and ask you to help me to call ____________ to the best in ________________________________________ that you long for him/her! 

I’m Not Buyin’ It

Our culture sells it in a very appealing way, a self-validating and inflating way, but the cost is simply too high. The twisted view that a woman only has real value in terms of how she stacks up against a man or a man’s performance in the workplace and society is an insult to women. Yes, a woman can be and millions are as intelligent as men, but our value has nothing to do with our IQ. A woman should be paid what a man is paid for the same job and have equal access to jobs, but at the same time our value has nothing to do with the position we hold or the money we bring in.

I know many women work because they have to bring in a paycheck to survive. Some women work simply because they want to, some because they have to. Yes, we all need a roof over our head, food on the table for us and, if we have them, our children, clothing, and the list or needs goes on and on. I applaud and uphold my sisters in this boat. I am right now, not by my choice.

At the same time, I’ve seen the tremendous price our children have paid for the absence of a nurturing mother in their early, critically formative years. I’ve worked part-time in public schools and in a private daycare since 1981, and I’ve sadly seen the cost to children placed in day care from their infancy. I gave my best to 35 children in a classroom but once they got home with their homework, and questions, did they have a supportive parent to encourage them, catch their mistakes and trouble-shoot with them so that 1) the child could feel free to know that mistakes are part of learning and correcting them is a GOOD thing, and 2) the someone cared enough about them just as a person to invest some time and attention into their lives.

I gave my best care and my smiling nurturing to five infants and toddlers at a time, but in no way could I replace a mother’s love and validation and security, even though several of them bonded with me and ran (toddled) to me when I came into the room. They needed to know 1) they were loved and 2) they wouldn’t be abandoned – that they were secure. The glaring truth from child development is that if a child does not develop a strong bond with a primary caregiver (and folks, that’s Mom, not their daycare teacher) in their first five years, the “wiring” needed to be able to develop attachments to others does NOT develop in a child’s brain and that child will grow into adulthood unable to establish significant relationships with others. That child will go through life trying to find someone to validate her/his worth and identity.

How much is your child’s emotional and mental health worth? I vividly remember my mother 60 years ago cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls from “McCall’s” magazine every month, gluing each “Betsy” to cardboard so I could play with “her” over and over. The time came when we cut the clothes out together, and then I could by myself, but that was so much more than cardboard and paper. My mother gave me both the security of her gladly involved time and love that said I was a person of value, and an outlet for my own imagination and creativity. What is that worth in today’s marketplace? Is that worth as much as being Chairman of the Board? To me it was a priceless gift that bore fruit in the creativity I brought into teaching children in school, grown women in Bible studies, kids and parents in the playful activiti9es I created for the Education Department at the Phoenix Zoo – nobody else would get down on a child’s level and cavort to sing “Did you ever see a monkey to this way and that way” or pop out of a large vinyl zippered “egg” with a chicken comb headband on and peep for the toddlers.

I was a National Merit Scholar. I graduated second in a class of 660 in high school. I am neither stupid nor lazy, but a good friend of mine gave me a backhanded compliment that sounded like criticism when she said about ten years ago, “I though you’d have the Nobel Prize in chemistry by now.” THAT did wonders for my self-esteem… until I looked at the children I played with at the Zoo, and more importantly, at my own children: two God-honoring men of amazing abilities, yes, but with courage and integrity and compassionate hearts that give into their own families, to colleagues at work, and to “the least of these” also.

I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to fight for my equality with a man, or turn myself into someone more like a man to make other women admire me. I am GLAD to be a woman, glad to be wired to nurture and love and create and value and affirm and encourage, as well as wired to write and teach. My value and identity comes from who I am, who God says I am and the immeasurable price He paid for me through Jesus to be adopted into his family, through my character, my commitment to the people I love and care about, my integrity as I walk and now work in the world representing his character and love.

My children never had a boxcar-sized flat screen HDTV or summers in the Bahamas or travertine tile on the floors of our expansive house, but we rolled balls and trucks back and forth on the linoleum and watched meteor showers from the comfort of sleeping bags on the grass in the backyard. While I pulled in $120 a week from the two days I’d substitute teach, or occasionally more if I did a week, we made gingerbread houses and cinnamon-and-applesauce cutout Christmas ornaments. I helped them with their homework after school and was their Den Leader for Cub Scouts – and I have two Eagle Scouts to show for all the junk I collected and turned into art projects and the mess on my garage floor every week. They drew greeting cards and stationery to give their grandparents as gifts, and my younger son is now a designer. We didn’t have a swimming pool, but they took the heads off the in-ground sprinklers and ran through geysers in the back yard, making a huge puddle of mud to squish in and never mind, the grass would grow back.

We prayed together every night, I read them Bible stories, we went to church every Sunday, they went to Vacation Bible School with me in summers, and I had the joy of seeing both of them accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

No, I didn’t win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Though I’ve helped write five books, I never won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m happy to say my treasures, my “Pulitzers,” are named Eric and Ethan.

Where is your treasure? Where are your treasures? In front of a big-screen HDTV with controllers and your daughters playing shoot and kill video games or I have to look like a queen to be beautiful avatars, your sons telling their teacher at after school care as they finger their I Pad, “No, that isn’t blood coming out of his head – it’s Kool-Aid” as they grow desensitized to violence and disregard for human life?

If you’re a working mom who has to work, I pray God gives you stamina and creative ways to bond with and spend quality time with your children. If you don’t have to work, and you are only working to give yourself a sense of validation and identity, might you rethink that if you have young children? Your treasures need you to treasure them. You are woman, and your are mighty in all that means. “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and in many ways that is absolutely true. Where did Isaac Newton come from, who was Abraham Lincoln’s primary influence, who gave Harry Truman such a compassionate heart and wise understanding?

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:25-30

That I’m “buyin'” and investing in! Selah!

Lord Jesus, let me always point to you in all I say and do.

That I’m “buyin” and investing in!Ethan and dioramas Ethan gingerbread house

Strike the Rock

Perseverance. No visible results. Twenty-five years. How long could you endure? When would frustration overtake your faith? And was this a word God intended for me?

Recently I visited the area headquarters for an missions organization sending humanitarian workers to indigenous people in Mexico. Paper banners hung along the walls of a large multi-purpose room. One color indicated New Testament translations completed, one color indicated translations underway, and just a few of a third color targeted languages remaining to have Bible translation underway. Those weren’t just banners; those were life stories, joys, tears, sacrifice, illnesses overcome, dangers faced, loneliness for families far away, children growing up isolated from their home culture and friends and extended families, miracles, healings, minds given the gift of literacy, the good news of Jesus planted in hearts and lives, a chronicle of lives invested over decades to bring hope, vision, humanitarian aid, and God’s word in their own heart language to how many hundreds of thousands of people.

If we were there, doing their work, pushing through, going without, threatened by local shamans and witch doctors, how long would we persevere before we saw “results”? One man asked that after 25 years of his and his wife’s befriending, helping, giving into lives in the village, learning the language and writing book after book of the Bible to give the villagers the hope of Jesus. Though they’d made friends in the village and the people truly appreciated all they had sacrificed and given, twenty-five years passed and not a single person accepted Jesus as Lord. The local witch doctor had over the years threatened the villagers that, if anyone embraced Jesus, he would put a spell of death upon them.

Had all their work been for nothing? I know I’d be asking that question, ready to pack up my family and belongings and head home deep in doubt that God had actually called me to that work. Deep in confusion and nearing despair, one day the man experienced a vivid dream. He was standing in front of a large boulder, and a hammer lay on the ground. An angel walked up to the man and told him, “God wants you to strike the rock.” Obediently the man began hammering away at the hard rock. he hammered, and hammered, and hammered, and hammered. Not a single chip flaked off the rock, not a single crack appeared in the hard, resistant surface. Tired and confused, the man put the hammer down.

Up walked the angel again, this time with a question. “What are you doing?”

The man poured out his exhausted frustration, saying “The rock won’t break!”

Then the angel kindly asked him a pointed question: “What did God tell you to do?”

“Strike the rock,” the man replied.

“God didn’t tell you to break the rock,” the angel explained simply. “He just asked you to strike it.”

Revelation and validation flashed into the weary man’s mind and spirit. He and his wife had done exactly what they were sent to do, regardless of the results they did or didn’t see!

They moved on to a neighboring village, and almost immediately, people began accepting Jesus as their Lord. What in the world was the difference, the couple wondered?  Villagers explained matter-of-factly, “We aren’t under the power of their witch doctor. He can’t put a curse on us!” So many came to Christ that a church was planted in the second village. Not long after, the witch doctor in the neighboring village died, and Christians from the second village came to the of the first and led them to faith in Jesus, planting a church there as well. What truly did all their years of love and labor invested in that first village do? Make the rock ready to crumble at just the right time!

How many of my prayers seem to have gone unheard and unanswered? Is it possible that God has asked me simply to “Strike the rock”?  Are my fervent prayers truly more effective than I know, than I see now?

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8 NIV

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I’ve thrown my hammer down in exhaustion and frustration more than once, and I know I’ve lost some blessings out of sheer sorrow in not seeing results. What blessing did I miss? What did I give up? How about you? What good are you weary of doing? Um, okay … has anyone seen my hammer?

Rose into cave at Mooney 96

A  “… BUT … “to move: God. I’ve prayed and prayed repeatedly for _______________________________________ and it looks like nothing at al lhas happened, no answer is coming. Show me if I need to simply persevere in “striking the rock” or if it is time to move on, trusting that you will __________________________________ when I keep on doing good in ______________________________. I will let you be God and Lord of the results!